Today the church celebrates the Passion of John the Baptist. The Gospel at Mass recounting that most lurid scriptural passage in which two men lose their head. One metaphorically the other literally. These men stand in stark contrast. John the Baptist a radical herald of a kingdom yet to come. Herod a herald and ruler of this fallen world.
As the drama unfolds we discover that the Baptist has nothing in worldly terms. Having lived his life for God he is now penniless and in prison. His crime to have spoken moral truth to power regarding the marriage of Herod to his brother’s wife. And yet despite his poverty and plight in human terms he is upstanding and proud. A courageous paragon of virtue whose integrity and personal holiness even the wicked acknowledge and admire; despite finding his words deeply unsettling Herod is mesmerised by him. John lived for Christ and his inner beauty shone forth for all to see.
Meanwhile Herod has everything in worldly terms. A palace, power, incredible wealth, his brother’s wife…and her daughter to dance for him. Yet despite holding the aces he cannot hold a candle to John. We learn he is morally compromised and pathetically weak. His problem is twofold:
I. He is a slave to his passions; he cannot control his lust. This leads him to make rash promises and behave in a way he later regrets.
II. He is in thrall to the popular consensus: unable to stand up for what he believes because he fears offending his guests. It stops him from doing what is right and paves the way for violence and murder.
As I listened to the Gospel this evening I was struck by it’s relevance. Catholicism finding itself in crisis today precisely because we have too many Cardinal Herods and not enough Cardinal Johns! Which is to state huge and lasting damage has been dealt to Christian credibility because sinful bishops, priests and deacons have found themselves incapacitated by the exact same flaws as that scoundrel Herod.
Those unable to control their passions dealt the first and heaviest blow. How sickening to hear of so many depraved sins visited on children and adults alike. From the repugnant brutes who degraded innocent little children to pervy prelates who preyed on their seminarians. The caving in to lust by those in holy orders has created a scandal crying out to heaven for justice!
And it was the second flaw, fear of losing face in the world, that enabled these sinners to go unpunished so long. Too many Cardinals and bishops (even the present pontiff if whistle blowing Cardinals are to be believed) having efused to confront the excesses of an unhealthy homosexual subculture (which is at the root of over 80% of the abuse) because they put careers and the institution first and the divine law second. We might also consider the legion of modern bishops who, unlike the baptist, never speak moral truth to the world because they hunger for secular approval, seeming to care more for human politics and comfort in this life than the salvation of souls in the next.
Whatever your theological leaning there is no denying it is a terrible mess. It is high time then that people were held to account regardless of seniority. The brood of vipers must be removed and a new generation of authentic apostles recruited.
The current problems are beyond the pay grade of laity and priests. Pray then that God might stir the remaining men of God, from amongst the Episcopacy, into firm action. Enough with the banal and meaningless apologies drafted in the wake of abuse by lawyers! Enough of looking the other way and not holding people to account. Enough of soft retirements for wicked men funded by the cash of humble church goers. We need the true shepherds to arise and come to our aid. NOW is the time for new saints and martyrs to deliver us from the hands of wicked men. John the Baptist pray for us.